I live in an area that felt the direct impact of Hurricane Matthew. There were some parts of my county that were prompted to evacuate. It only got more stressful when authorities and the media started referring to Matthew as a ‘once in a lifetime’ storm.
Where I live is now through the worst of it and we all fared well considering. The focus will be rebuilding the hard hit beach communities in the days to come. Here are a few things I learned over the course of this storm:
- Don’t ignore your instincts——When I first started hearing reports about Matthew early in the week, I was in denial. I kept thinking the hurricane would track west and all that would happen would be torrential rain for a few days. On Tuesday I woke up and had a feeling it was going to make landfall and I needed to prepare. I ignored this feeling. I didn’t want to seem overly anxious, which I am known for, and was worried if I went to the store and started stocking up, people would judge me. By Wednesday afternoon, everyone was headed to the stores and me along with them. I could have avoided this added stress of fighting the crowds if I had gone to the store when I initially felt I should. When it comes to nature and its unpredictability, worry less about what others think of you, and do what you feel is right the moment you feel it.
- Speak up for yourself——If you are working in tandem with a spouse or partner as a possible life threatening situation approaches, say clearly what you need. As Matthew’s path remained unclear for most of the early part of the week, my husband was in another state for work. Even though logically the probability for our home being seriously affected by Matthew was low, I wanted my husband to come home. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by asking him to come home and if I stated clearly what I wanted, then I was taking responsibility for myself. So, say what you need. Be clear and be calm in doing so. Thankfully, my husband had already booked an early flight home even before I asked. Somehow the uncertainty of everything seemed less so if I knew my family could all be together.
- Have a plan—— Wherever you live, there are going to be weather related threats to your area. It could be flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires, etc. Know your area and formulate an appropriate plan in case disaster strikes. I find that when things get scary and seem out of control, it’s nice to turn my attention to the step by step structure of a plan. The reality is, we cannot control the outcome of life-threatening weather and conditions, but we can control how we handle each moment as it arises.
- Talk to your kids in age appropriate ways—— My eleven-year old was mature enough to handle the constant weather updates. We kept our discussions open and honest while giving him the chance to voice his opinions about the whole situation. My nine-year old kind of stayed in his own world and that felt right to me. He was more excited about school being cancelled and the opportunity to play so many video games. We let him go with that.
- Count your blessings—– There is nothing like a natural disaster that helps you quickly separate the essential from the nonessential. This is an opportunity to look at your life and take stock of what is truly important. For me it was family (my dog included). I also felt extremely grateful for our media and communication capabilities. This allowed critical information to be spread effectively to us and all the affected areas. It put into perspective the hardships places like Haiti had experienced without the same access to resources and information. It is hard to fathom the destruction and loss of life that will come to light in areas like Haiti over the next several days. All we can do is turn to prayer if this is our truth, look for the helpers or become a helper ourselves.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent